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Keeping Tabs on Your Silverado’s Engine: Mechanical & Digital Gauges

Keeping Tabs on Your Silverado’s Engine: Mechanical & Digital Gauges

Modern trucks, including the Silverado, seem to come with absolutely everything you would want from a truck. Plenty of room, all the gadgets you could dream of, and let’s not forget tons of power. The only problem is they seem to rely too much on engine codes to let us know what’s wrong. This does work for many situations, but the problem is they don’t tell us what’s wrong until something goes wrong. Gauges are tools designed to give you a live reading of exactly what’s happening in the vehicle’s operating systems. By using the gauges properly, you can get a good idea of what’s happening under the hood at all times. They may also provide you with the correct cues to act upon an upcoming issue before it’s too late.

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The more upgrades you install on your Silverado's engine the more likely the factory gauge setup isn't going to be capable of keeping up. The most obvious is boost. Installing a supercharger or turbocharger requires the addition of a boost gauge, so you can monitor PSI levels without the risk of blowing a line or worse.

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Silverado Factory Gauge Options

From the factory, your Silverado will come equipped with a select few gauges. These gauges aren’t exactly what’s needed for in-depth troubleshooting but are more so for monitoring the operating system under everyday conditions. However, they can be used for troubleshooting when paired with a keen eye.

The speedometer and tachometer are generally used for keeping an eye on your foot on the pedal. However, by comparing the two, you can keep an eye on your transmissions shifting. The ammeter, oil temp, and water temperature gauges are meant for keeping an eye on parts of the operating system but only give us a brief glimpse on the essentials and not the entire system. 

Speedometer: The speedometer is the gauge you will look at the most. This gives a live reading of the vehicle’s rate of speed based on either the rotation of the tires or a GPS.

Tachometer: The tachometer is used to monitor the engine’s revolutions per minute, or RPM, at any given moment. 

Ammeter: The factory ammeter gives a live reading of the charging system. The factory units don’t use digits and can only leave users assuming exactly what’s going on.

Oil Temp: The oil temperature gauge is used to let you know when the oil is at the perfect operating temperature but like the ammeter, digits aren’t used.

Water Temp: The water temperature gauge is used to let you know whether the engine is overheating. Again, the factory gauge gives a vague reading.

Silverado Aftermarket Gauges

To get a better feel for what’s really going on with the Silverado’s operating systems you will want to pick up aftermarket gauges that give accurate readings. 

Many will opt to add aftermarket gauges to take place of the same type of gauges equipped from the factory so they can get the best reading possible. There are a few other common gauges added to Silverado’s listed and discussed below. 

Oil Pressure: Oil pressure gauges give you a live reading of the rate of flow of the oil. Using this gauge will let you know that the oil is doing its job. Low oil pressure is a direct indicator the oil level may be low or there is a problem with the engine’s rotating assembly. 

Water Temp: Aftermarket water temperature gauges do the same thing as the factory units but they will give an exact reading of the water temperature. 

Volts: A voltmeter will give a reading from the same source as the stock unit, but an aftermarket unit will give you an exact reading represented by a number value. 

Trans Temp: An automatic transmission can overheat. Without a gauge to monitor this, there’d be nearly no way to tell if the transmission is too hot until it’s too late. Transmission temperature gauges will give an accurate live reading of the automatic transmission fluid. 

Boost (When Applicable): A boost gauge will only ever be used if a supercharger or turbocharger is installed on the engine. This gauge is used to read how much boost the forced induction unit is producing at a given time.

Mounting Solutions

Of course with the use of aftermarket gauges comes the issue of mounting them. On a Silverado, most of the real estate in the cabin is already used up by the factory equipment. There are still options available for those looking to install aftermarket gauges in their truck.

Pillar Pods: The cleanest location to mount aftermarket gauges on a Silverado is on the pillar on the driver’s side. Pre-made pillar pods can be purchased to fit to this location making for an OE look and feel.

Under Dash: Some gauge assemblies will come in premade pods with multiple gauges mounted on a flat piece of metal. This piece is designed to mount under the dash. This is the perfect option for those who want to mount their gauges in a point that’s out of direct sight but still easy for the driver to see.

Mechanical vs Electronic Installation

While shopping for aftermarket gauges, you will come across mechanical and electronic gauges. For ease of installation, many will reach for the mechanical gauges in fear the electronic gauges will be harder to set up. This isn’t true. Much of the installation of aftermarket gauges, both mechanical or electronic, follow the same exact steps. The only difference being electronic gauges will require minor wiring to work properly. 

Fitment includes: 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, LS, LT, WT, SS, Hybrid, Z71, LTZ, XFE, Custom, HighCountry, RST, TrailBoss